“I work out of love.”
Rosanne Henry, MA, LPC, is talking about cult survivors. “I marvel at the strength of second-generation adults: their courage and determination. They want a normal life. And after everything they’ve been through, they certainly deserve a normal life.” Ms. Henry has her own psychotherapy practice in Littleton, Colorado, half of which comprises cult survivors. Asked how she keeps from getting overwhelmed in her practice, she answers, “I don’t get burned out. I rarely get emotionally overwhelmed... maybe because the clientele I work with work very diligently on their cult recovery... this keeps me going... their resiliency... and they are so grateful. It’s very rewarding."
We are so fortunate to have compassionate, highly gifted people in ICSA, such as Rosanne Henry, who give freely of their time. No amount of praise, no matter how extravagant, would be adequate for these pioneers, who have simultaneously quarried out the psychology of totalism while creating an organization from scratch. In 1982, however, when Rosanne came out of the group she was in, ICSA was only a fledgling organization; there was no Internet, and help was hard to find.
Having been lured into a group called Kashi Ranch, Rosanne lived there for several years, where she gave birth to her first child and only daughter, Ganga. Daily life in the group was grueling. In addition, she was coerced to surrender her child to the group leader, who appropriated her. “My husband and I were led to believe that our daughter was chosen to be the next guru— this was the justification for the leadership raising Ganga.” Worn out and disenchanted after becoming aware of what was really going on at the top, Rosanne and her husband decided to leave. “I couldn’t stand it any longer.” They planned their escape for a month or two and had to sneak out in the middle of the night, leaving their little daughter behind.
After getting out, Rosanne at first, didn’t know what had really happened to her.
I was out of the cult 5 years before stumbling upon Steve Hassan’s book, Combatting Cult Mind Control ... after reading the book, I decided to get into therapy. I finally had a name for the experience... In the midst of my own therapy I realized how many therapists did not understand the phenomenon of mind control and how destructive cults operate. This [realization] inspired me to help develop the field of cult recovery.
Asked if she has any role models, Ms. Henry responded thoughtfully, “Irving Yalom. I’ve read most of his books. And the heroes that have emerged [in cult studies], because of their knowledge, insight, wisdom. Robert Lifton, in particular ... his work is the gold standard. Comprehensive.”
After battling to gain custody of her daughter, Rosanne’s family, which had grown, was reunited with the little girl. Rosanne now enjoys a wonderful family life; and she says,
I take care of myself. I don’t feel I work too much. I bike one to three times a week, year-round. I garden. I enjoy my dogs. I read books. I’m fairly active. For me, the work I do in ICSA is fun.
Rosanne works side by side with Carol Giambalvo and others who run workshops for first- and second-generation cult survivors. “I’ve been doing this for about twenty years.” She is on the Board of ICSA and heads the Mental Health Committee, somehow finding time to also volunteer her skills in other organizations such as the Red Cross and the Rocky Mountain Resource Center. In 2010, Rosanne Henry was awarded the Margaret Thaler Singer Award “for advancing the understanding of coercive persuasion and undue influence.”